Vitale foundation to donate $200K in memory of Chad Carr

Tony Paul
The Detroit News

The V Foundation and Dick Vitale are set to allocate a $200,000 cancer research grant in memory of Chad Carr to the University of Michigan Health System.

Chad Carr died from an incurable form of brain cancer, diffuse intrinsic pontine glioma, or DIPG. He was 5 years old.

The Carr family, including former football coach Lloyd Carr, and Chad's parents, Jason and Tammi Carr, will be recognized during Vitale's 11th annual charity gala in Florida on Friday night.

Chad Carr died at the age of 5 in November, after battling a rare, aggressive and incurable form of brain cancer, diffuse intrinsic pontine glioma, or DIPG -- but not before capturing the hearts of Ann Arbor and the nation.

Chad's memory lives on in the ChadTough Foundation.

"Every year, Dick works with different families and different people who have either overcome a rough battle of cancer or who have lost a child to cancer," said Susan Braun, CEO of the V Foundation, named after legendary basketball coach Jim Valvano.

"He was very touched by the story, as we all are."

Vitale, the famous college basketball announcer for ESPN, first started thinking about ways to help in memory of Chad in January, when he was working the Michigan-Maryland game at Crisler Center.

His broadcast partner, Mike Tirico, wanted him to meet Tammi Carr at halftime.

"I immediately recognized the name, because that became such an incredible story," Vitale told The News on Thursday afternoon. "It became really a well-known scenario.

"We met at halftime. Really, I was very impressed with her. She's one of those people you meet, in the first minute you like her."

Vitale returned home to Florida and began tossing ideas around in his head. He called Braun to ask about a possible grant, and Braun called back within the hour and the plan moved ahead.

Vitale then called Tammi Carr to share the news.

The money comes from millions Vitale has raised over the years to fight pediatric cancer. He will have a sold-out crowd of nearly 900, paying $1,000 a plate, on Friday night, and hopes to raise at least $2.5 million.

"I'll feel like a coach who lost a big game if we don't net $2.5 million," Vitale said.

Michigan football coach Jim Harbaugh also is making the trip to the gala, and will have a little fun with Ohio State coach Urban Meyer. The gala sold raffle tickets for a 2016 Mercedes-Benz; Harbaugh will draw the ticket, and Meyer will announce the winner.

Pediatric cancer, and finding cures, long has held a place in Vitale's heart.

"I love kids. Not enough's being done. If more research was being done, you and me would not be having this conversation," Vitale said.

"Only 4 cents for every dollar raised for cancer research goes toward pediatric cancer, and that's criminal."

More than 70 people from the world of sports will be at the gala, which will also pay tribute to broadcaster Robin Roberts, former Wisconsin basketball coach Bo Ryan and Meyer.

The Carrs, though, will take center stage, putting names and faces to the disease.

In May 2014, Vitale and the V Foundation created a research grant in memory of Lacey Holsworth, the Michigan State basketball super fan who died of cancer at the age of 8.

"He's so passionate in what he does," Braun said of Vitale, who suggested the Carr grant be given to C.S. Mott Children's Hospital at Michigan. "And we're fortunate to have such great scientific advisers to help us spend the money really well."

tpaul@detroitnews.com

Twitter: @tonypaul1984